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Old July 28th, 2008, 04:45 PM   #1
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Simple Question: Why MAC/FCS?

Not trying to start a flame fest here - I truly want to know why the MAC/FCS is considered the new standard for indie's as compared to Windows/various NLE's.

What is specifically makes the MAC a better platform for editing video? What makes it supposedly better than editing on the Windows platform.
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Old July 28th, 2008, 05:18 PM   #2
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The "which is better" question will only do one thing: incite an opinion and statistics war, as it always does.

My suggestion is to read the plethora of posts on this and other forums, read the white-papers on the Apple site and it's competitors and go to any of the forums sponsors who sell AV equipment and have a system integrator go over your needs/budget, take all this information and decide for yourself if it's better for YOU or not.

Just because FCP, Avid or any other NLE gets used a lot doesn't mean it has the features, functions and cost structure that fits *your* needs, only you have that information. The only thing people can tell you is why it works for them, and that always invites the opinion wars.

Almost all of us have asked the same "which one..." question and fallen into the same trap. Some of us, myself included, have even tried to answer that question for the uninitiated - with all the best intentions, mind you - but the same thing always happens: The conversation de-evolves into a pissing contest full of ego and a "who knows more" battle. Knuckles start dragging on the ground, the fangs come out, low-frequency rumblings are heard across the country and I've even heard a few stories of cattle gone missing in the night... it's not a pretty sight.

Whenever you decide what to purchase and need help getting things figured out, that's what the forum is best suited for - getting help with relevant questions or, new product information. Never ask "which is better"; it's as useless as a thumb on your forehead.
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Old July 28th, 2008, 05:52 PM   #3
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The "which is better" question will only do one thing: incite an opinion and statistics war, as it always does[...] Never ask "which is better"; it's as useless as a thumb on your forehead.
Robert is right, and as much as I'd love to chime in with an opinion here, I will not, however, I will suggest some things to think about that should inform your decision regarding which of the many fine NLEs is right for you. So here are my "Ten Criteria of Highly Successful NLE Decision Making"

1. PROPAGANDA Ignore sales literature, marketing hype, and vendor related propaganda especially sales events and vendor-sponsored case studies. Instead, listen to the user community, the editors and/or media makers who actually use the tools, especially those who make a living using it and stake their livelihood on the tools. Especially good are the opinions of people who use more than one of the tools professionally, they can share the real nuances between systems. Real information from real people (like the dialog on this list) is the best guide (short of real experience).

2. COLLABORATION Do you collaborate with people? What are they using? Is there value in having the same system they have for ease of project exchange? This also goes if you work at a firm that uses a particular system, if you want to be valuable within a particular work environment.

3. MARKET NICHE Are you looking for something "just for your own use" or do you plan to work as a freelancer doing work for other people? If you're going to work as a freelancer, then you have to consider what tool is most often used in the geographic region and market segment you plan to work in. Talk with the working pros. Most are friendly and will be happy to tell you about their tools. Many working pros know two NLEs, since there really is no single dominant player in all markets.

4. AESTHETICS Which system appeals to your on an aesthetic level? Do you like the interface? Driving an NLE is like driving a car. It's a subjective experience.

5. BUDGET Which system fits in your budget? Some NLEs are more expensive that others. Can you get everything you want to get done with the tools that fit within your budget? Consider the cost of upgrades over time.

6. FORMATS Do you need to working with specific video formats? Are those video format supported well by the NLE you are planning to get? Various industry alliances, partnerships, and business priorities result in different NLEs adopting new formats on different schedules.

7. FEATURES Does the NLE you are considering offer the features you need today? How bout tomorrow? The different NLEs out there have different upgrade paths when it comes to working with uncompressed HD if you will ever need to do that. The different upgrade paths have different price tags associated with them. Part of a NLE feature set is third party support. Is there good third party support? Are plug-ins and add-ons you are likely to need available for the NLE under consideration?

8. USER COMMUNITY Does the NLE you want to get have a lively community? Is it easy to get help from other users? Is there a local users group that meets on a regular basis? Is there a lively discussion on DVinfo.net regarding the NLE you are considering?

9. REPUTATION What is the NLE vendors reputation? How long have they been in the business? How do they treat users? User groups? Do they participate in discussion forums? What is their technical support like? Do they offer professional support for a fee as an option?

10. PLATFORM Do you have a strong preference for a particular OS platform? Linux? Windows? Macintosh? Not all NLEs are available on all platforms, so this may limit your choice of NLE if you have a strong feeling for one platform over another.

I've worked with three of the popular NLEs out there and I can honestly say all three can do 90% of the things that editors do 90% of the time. The differences boil down to the equivalent of religious and/or philosophical arguments. They are very interesting over the beverage of your choice, but they do not make for fun reading on a discussion forum like this as Robert suggests since the arguments pro and con regarding the various NLEs are very tired and there are many threads, rants, and raves out there. I believe that thinking about these criteria is the best way to decide on the right NLE, rather than listen to someone like me or anyone else for that matter rant, rave, or wax philosophical about one particular NLE or another.

Good luck with the decision process.
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Old July 28th, 2008, 06:14 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by Cliff Etzel View Post
Not trying to start a flame fest here - I truly want to know why the MAC/FCS is considered the new standard for indie's as compared to Windows/various NLE's.

What is specifically makes the MAC a better platform for editing video? What makes it supposedly better than editing on the Windows platform.

Personally, I think that it was initially a specific history of the MAC approaching the computer/human interface as a VISUAL/Pictorial operation. A natural for visual oriented workers of all types. Started with typesetting, then page layout, then naturally, display of moving images.

Then it was targeting a specific industry (video editing) with an unusually robust solution (FCP) at a time (1999) when many civilians had a growing interest in doing work in that area.

Finally, like much of life, it often doesn't matter what reality is (all modern computers do video just fine, thank you) PERCEPTION is a powerful force. Indy movie people see themselves as somewhat in an "us against the establishment" light. And Macs are often similarly seen as an "us against the establishment" computer.

It was quite the opposite in the late 80s and early 90s - but not so much in the last decade.

Also, acknowledging all the missteps on all sides of the OS wars, it's been a LONG TIME since there's been a big compelling reason for most people to switch from a Mac to a PC once they've become accustomed to to the OS - and that's particularly true in the area of video editing. FCP is VERY widely accepted. Perhaps more accepted in the industry than anything else. So it's easy for a lot of us to stick with what's worked.

BTW, that's also very true of the current crop of PC editors. And there are LEGIONS of them who are quite happy with their solutions.

But whenever one side has a shakeup - like happened in the 90's migration of Mac people to PCs - and in the Vista transition lately when it seems some people were rattled enough to explore the other side of the OS issue - things shift.

They're just tools. But just like there used to be strict Ford and Chevy households, today there are Mac and PC households. At least until the computer equivelent of Toyota and Honda come along some day!

So my final answer is this. It's a specific history - combined with the perception of quality and ease of use and how those factors appeal to the individual in the editing seat.

Oh, and then there's the so called iPod and iPhone "halo" effect. - we can't forget that! Apple is once again VERY cool. And everyone enjoys being associated with cool - right?
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Old July 28th, 2008, 06:20 PM   #5
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David - I wanted to avoid the flame fest associated with platform zealots - hence my question.

I'm focusing on shooting documentary type projects as a self contained shooter/editor. I usually won't be collaborating.

I do admit I do like the MAC environment - but that's not a deal breaker for me. What I'm looking for are specific features - and these specific features need to be as solid as possible:

Straight cut edits
Dissolves
Solid Titling (nothing fancy)
Color correction
Ability to handle HDV content without deal breaking issues
Stability in the app itself

Not asking much am I? The reason I ask about MAC/FCS is that my contemporaries are all using MAC/FCS, but I'm left wondering if it's because of having worked on MAC's as still shooters and so they are just using what they have, or are they using it for a reason I'm unaware of at this time. Video Journalist training like Travel Channel Academy and Platypus Workshops only teach using Final Cut - so I'm left wondering if I'm missing something here if I want to make available content for other distribution options.

My work is still evolving - I currently work in x64 XP Pro and SONY's Production Apps, but I'm not opposed to making a change if needed. I just want to have as solid a platform as possible. The user community is a great one, but the issues with Vegas Pro effectively editing content has had many issues recently and before I truly settle on what I'm currently using, I want to make sure that I'm not missing out on the ability to be even more productive in my edit sessions.
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Old July 28th, 2008, 06:22 PM   #6
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Old July 29th, 2008, 04:17 AM   #7
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Personally I see zero reason to switch if you're not a- required to by your job or b-strongly dissatisfied with your current NLE/OS. I happen to be really strong in FCP and I like being on a Mac. But is someone equally skilled in editing on a PC with Vegas going to make a better or worse project than me? No of course not, it's the talent not the tool.

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Old July 29th, 2008, 05:28 AM   #8
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The biggest advantage of Macs is conformity - most systems are pretty similiar so if you are having a hardware/software related non user caused issue you are likely to be not the only one and Apple will hopefully nail down the bug pretty quick.

This can be a disadvantage if Apple ignores the bug as its a lot less likely that someone else will come up with a hardware/software work around during the wait.

The advantage of Final Cut Studio in mine mind is compressor - Compressor is a super powerful workflow tool in the right hands and no other similiarly priced NLE comes with anything near as powerful.

Motion - an awesome idea that doesn't really work, ditto for Color (both can be made to work - but they are so far from bullet proof it isn't funny) - Soundtrack Pro is an ok introduction to sound editing but not a serious tool at all. DVD Studio Pro, mixed with FCP and Compressor, is a very sturdy pro App that allows you to make highly professional DVDs and I have found it to be really rock solid on that front (However - If I was desperate for Blu-ray support I'd have low expectations and may be better sticking to PC world in terms of timeliness to market.)

Final Cut is very powerful, quite flexible, slightly buggy (nothing hideous) very receptive to some mixed media (much more so than some NLEs, less than other more niche ones I have heard of but haven't used apparently.) with a major lack of serious media management compared to AVID. It's also easy to use but difficult to master (I sometimes call it deceptively easy - because you can get an entire project done without realizing a few fatal lazy mistakes due to its flexibility, until you need to get your master out and realize you screwed the pooch at the very beginning and don't necessarily have a way back.).

For you needs as a documentary editor - simply due to the amount of footage you are likely to be shooting - my personal first port of call would be Avid on either OS.

Avid is difficult to learn (arcane by some standards!) but hugely powerful - and AVID treats its media, and your editing decisions, like the gold they are. That does however mean the programme is locked up tighter than Fort Knox and sometimes just getting stuff into it and working with it can make you feel like you are passing through security and have to know the secret codes and passwords - but the instances of unrecoverable Avid disasters are much less likely for this, and even if you do have a seemingly unrecoverable disaster - chances are somewhere along the way Avid did something, that will some how get you out of it if you can just find someone with enough Avid experience to talk to (in the professional world relatively easy because Avid has been THE standard for so long, in the amateur/solo world not so easy.)

However, as an operator/shooter/do everything yourself kinda guy the opportunities a Mac and FCP can bring you in terms of turning around very slick product within one fairly easy to learn toolset (Final Cut Studio and some of the bare basic Mac apps like Garageband) you might find a Mac a revelation. The amount of stuff that Macs make really easy to do, that always seemed hard on PCs, is staggering. Doesn't mean they are always the best tool for the job - but they are a hard tool to hate.
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Old July 29th, 2008, 05:56 AM   #9
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The best reason to learn Final Cut and related Apple software is to be prepared to use it in a work situation when the need arises. I didn't bother doing this and got caught off guard recently when I ended up in a temp job where they used Macs for their video production, which was awkward. Asking what's "best" is irrelevant: it's enough to know that Final Cut is popular so go ahead and learn it. Similarly, don't limit yourself to Final Cut for the same reasons, as there are many good video production tools which aren't Mac based.
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Old July 29th, 2008, 07:25 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cliff Etzel View Post
David - I wanted to avoid the flame fest associated with platform zealots - hence my question [...] I currently work in x64 XP Pro and SONY's Production Apps, but I'm not opposed to making a change if needed. I just want to have as solid a platform as possible. The user community is a great one, but the issues with Vegas Pro effectively editing content has had many issues recently and before I truly settle on what I'm currently using, I want to make sure that I'm not missing out on the ability to be even more productive in my edit sessions.
I think if you apply my ten criteria to your decision, you will probably come down to the question, "Stick with Vegas Pro on Windows or move to Mac w/ Final Cut Studio." And in that case, what are the pros and cons of switching? Even though I'm a Macintosh/Final Cut Studio user who started on the Avid but switched due to economic reality, I'm going to remain relatively quiet and rational and avoid and rants or raves. Both offer strong editing solutions.

For you the switch to Final Cut Studio involves a platform change. For me the answer would be simple, because I personally (on an aesthetic and business level) don't care for Windows, so my choices are more limited, but if you're happy w/ Vegas and Windows, the key question, what does one benefit from switching? There might not be enough benefit to make the switch. So what are the benefits for you one way or another? And it's not just a Vegas vs. Final Cut question, for if one considers switching, there are more options out there. Sorry to throw out questions rather than answers, but since everyone comes to this question w/ a different context, one can't simply say choose one over another. There's good reason the NLE marketplace is so competitive. Both Vegas and Final Cut Pro have a strong and lively community. What are film and art schools teaching these days? What are the independent filmmakers that you know using? Survey the environment, review the 10 criteria, and you might find it all becomes clear for you. And your clarity may be different that someone else's clarity.

But I will offer one observation, the Macintosh has for a long time been associated as the platform for visual artists. Desktop publishing was born on the Mac (actually the Xerox Alto to be more accurate, but the Mac was inspired by the Alto and was the first real commercial success in a graphical user interface computer). Photoshop ran on the Mac for a long time before it moved to Windows. QuickTime for a long time was the de facto production standard for computer based digital video. And once upon a time NLEs were expensive and required special capture hardware and Apple changed all that with the introduction of Final Cut Pro which was based on DV video through FireWire taking advantage of the new DV cameras of the time. Lots of momentum for Apple, and lots of mis-steps along the way, which opened up the low end NLE market to many competitors. On the high end Avid survived, while many others came and went. Now Avid is moving downstream into Final Cut territory, while Final Cut, Vegas, Premiere, and several others slowly move up in capability, giving Avid a run for it's money. Lots of competition, lots of choices, it's good for everyone in the long run.
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Old July 29th, 2008, 01:07 PM   #11
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David,

All good points.

I would like to add that with Cliff's requirements, the platform does not seem
to be a huge issue. If you have good footage and a good editor I think your project
will come to life on any platform.

That said, FCP and Mac's imho after sixteen years of nle work, one the best
and certainly the most cost effective editing solution for most of us.

Good luck with your documentary Cliff.


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Old July 29th, 2008, 01:29 PM   #12
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FCS ships with a bunch of extra stuff. You get live type, motion, soundtrack pro, and compressor. For me (a poor student) this stuff kicks butt because even though I might not use some of the other programs I can play around with them and learn them. I'm not an Avid user but I took a class at NYU where they tried to teach us Avid and it was a complete pain in the butt. At the end the instructor even said... I just use Final Cut. You can round trip your projects in FCS. You can nail your rough cut and then send a clip of that shot to Shake or Motion do your effects and then either save it or render your file out nodes and then boom-project updates back in FCP automatically. Kinda like doing photoshop texture links in Maya. In my opinion it is just easier to work this way.

So the guys above me are right... it is totally personal opinion and doesn't matter in the end. I really doubt that anyone can look at something and say "oh thats Avid and that was cut on FCS." But if your a poor kid and are calling grandma to donate cash to your next film project you might want to consider FCS.
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Old July 29th, 2008, 03:59 PM   #13
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Stephen - you're correct about not being able to tell what it was edited in - my question is based upon "Am I missing something in the editing process" - ie; is there something I would be missing to improve my post production process.

I read alot about FCS these days - especially from my contemporaries who shoot in the solo video journalist paradigm - most are editing out in the field using MacBooks, but I've been using SONY Vegas Pro 8 on both my desktop and laptop. There have been show stopping issues up until recently and to be honest - not sure I want to continue being the guinea pig for SONY when I have work that is under deadline.

Again, the original topic is about working as a self contained shooter/editor. I MAY collaborate with someone - but it's really about efficiency for me in the editing process and the ability to distribute to multiple platforms - broadcast, internet, mobile devices, etc.

I can work in either OS - it's a matter of whether FCS is the solution. I know Premiere Pro, and when I played with FCS, it was pretty straight forward since the interface is very much like PPro. But PPro is a hog and I'm not that impressed with it. But it may be apples and oranges on this issue (no pun intended).

I wanted to get feedback from those who work with FCS - especially those who use to work in something else and why they made the jump to the MAC/FCS duo.
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Old July 29th, 2008, 04:25 PM   #14
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Cliff, I think it's best to look at the software first. Do you like FCP, Avid, etc....then pick the computer. If you know any editors, see if you can hang out awhile and get them to give you some basic instruction on their system of choice.

If you go with FCP or FCE, obviously it's got to be a Mac. If you go with Avid, you could go either way. Vegas would be PC of course. I'd stick with one of the more common NLEs. For the type of editing you're doing, if you want to stick with a Final Cut NLE but don't want to spend the money for FCP, you might look at Final Cut Express. It's only a couple hundred bucks and its files are compatible with FCP.

You also have to consider the camera you're using. For example, if you are using a Canon XL H or XH series and want to shoot 24F, you should go with Final Cut Pro. FC Express doesn't handle Canon's progressive modes and neither does Avid. I don't know about Vegas or any of the others. If you are going tapeless with, say, an EX1 or XDCAM HD, you would want to check for sure if the NLE can handle all its modes.

It's always good to get one of the standard packages because you can find users groups that are very good (the Los Angeles FCP Users Group, for example, is great and everybody there is very helpful when you have a problem). As far as why Macs dominate the editing and graphics fields, in editing it might have to do with the fact that Avid had such tremendous success with Media Composer and developed a worldwide base of Mac users. Avid on a Mac became pretty much the standard for people and stayed that way for many years. Now it seems that Final Cut Pro has leapfrogged over Avid in popularity, so that keeps the Mac up there at the top. Most Avid editors I know are now using FCP, but I do know one guy who uses Vegas and is very happy with it, which reinforces my point that you need to find the software you like before thinking about the computer.
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Old July 29th, 2008, 04:52 PM   #15
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Bill - reading the number of issues surrounding Canon's 24f/30f file format - I'm not considering ANY of their cameras - no matter how good they are. I shoot a couple of SONY HC7's currently out of choice and will more than likely stick with SONY for the foreseeable future - their stuff just works.

I do like Vegas Pro - don't get me wrong - but then again, it's not well supported and to be honest - it's sort of like AMD - a great contender, but not nearly as well known or supported as the other apps. Avid is one I am considering due to it working on either platform. My understanding is, PPro isn't that great on the MAC so that kind of makes them a non-contender. Final Cut Express is what I would be going with if I make the switch - it's capabilities are about all I need for the time being and the skills learned with it can translate to FCP.

This may boil down to either sticking with Vegas Pro and it's limitations or looking at Avid's Media Composer and it's archaic, although proven, methodology of editing. But I wanted to make an informed decision before I make any final decisions around this topic.
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